Yesterday, I took my son to his first day of school. Yesterday, I laughed with my daughter as she played with her shadow. Yesterday, I did homework…again. Yesterday, I lived my life as a mother. And today I realize that more than anything I would like another child.
I always thought that I would have four children. Despite the expense, the headache, my almost constant need to escape for peace and quiet, I desperately want another child. I want another baby to hold in my arms. I want to discover again the almost unpredictable talents, personality, and guaranteed craziness that this child would bring to my life. I want to be frustrated, I want to be disappointed, I even don’t mind the almost constant guilt that is absolutely normal with a child.
I am logical enough to understand that the money will never be there to support a child. I will go into even more debt than I am at this moment. I recognize that I gave away all my baby furniture, all my baby clothes and my entire collection of baby toys so that I would literally have to start over. I recognize that having two wonderful children is a blessing that is more important than a third child. I recognize that having a third child would never be fair to anyone in my life, and it is only a selfish desire on my part. I recognize this.
And I recognize one other inescapable fact: I can’t have another.
There are many truths about mental disease that can’t be predicted; truths that simply can’t be prepared for. One of those truths, and there are many, is that bi-polar and postpartum depression do not mix. We aren’t talking oil and water. We aren’t talking water and desert; we are talking ricin and blood. Bi-polar and postpartum depression is a deadly mix that no amount of drugs, no amount of therapy, and no amount of forewarning can prepare you for.
I survived bi-polar and postpartum depression by the skin of my teeth, both times. While it was an isolated event, it was also an event that would scar me for life. While it was it was only two small chunks in the overall misery of mental disease, it was two small chunks that tested everything I am, and everything I have.
The first one was a long and painful build up. Without getting into the gory details let’s just say by the end of it, I had lost my job, my reputation, and my own self-respect. I think the worse was the loss of my self-respect. I was in no way violent, I was worse. I was self-destructive until I literally destroyed my own worth.
The second time was worse. That time it involved pills; lots and lots of dangerous pills. There is a whole section of my life I literally can’t remember. Granted it lasted about ten days and I was able to get off the pills before I did real damage because of the diligence of my husband, but it still makes an impression. My husband, I think, for the first time had to confront the other side of mental disease; the question of making decisions that no partner should have to – hospital or death? He had to make decisions about admitting me to hospitals where he didn’t know what would happen. He had to make the decision that there was something really wrong that he might not be able to fix. He had to understand the mortality for the first time of a wife who would willingly take a bottle of pills just for the feelings it hid.
I survived both of these episodes, and I promise that I am lightly touching on the truth of what really happened in both of those times. I don’t remember much of it, but mostly because it is truly my lowest and scariest point. It is one of those crystal clear times when a human being with a mental disease realizes that there will be times when control, when strength is all an illusion. Times when the mind is more powerful than even the will of the mother.
With my whole heart I believe that those with mental diseases deserve the joy, the pleasure, the absolute perfection of having a child. I believe with knowledge, careful planning, and the right people in your corner, there is nothing that those with mental diseases can’t do. I don’t negate the fact that the months after the birth of a child is more dangerous than any other time in your life, I do believe that even when we fall (and we will) that if there are those to protect the most innocent we can get through it.
Knowing what I am capable of after the birth of a child, means that I can’t bring myself to have another. I would like to point out clearly, and I need to point out clearly, that I never touched either one of my children in a threatening or dangerous way during these episodes. In fact, when my husband pointed out to me in the midst of the worst of these episodes that I might hurt my children, even in all my drugged up and manic ways, my instinct was to grab my car keys and leave. It is the only memory that I have of those periods. The only clear thing I remember.
I was pulled over by a cop that I cannot describe to you. I fell off a chair at work, and I cannot tell you what that felt like, or even who saw it. I went out to eat at a restaurant (I have the receipt) and I don’t remember eating there, and I don’t remember who I had dinner with. It is a complete and total blank. There are no snippets; there are no wisps of memories. That whole period is absolutely gone.
Yet, I remember as clear as a bell, fearing for my child’s life. I remember like it just happened the absolute terror that I would hurt my child in anyway. And I didn’t go to that child. Instead I tried desperately to leave their presence. Until you are in the midst of a mental breakdown, don’t ever try to predict who and what you really are. I know the horror stories, but I also know the truth about me.
And while there is a truth about me during my mental breaks, there is also a truth that they are going to happen. There is a very real knowledge that this time the mental disease and the postpartum might create in me a storm I can’t recover from. There is a very real truth that this time I might not survive the fall out. This time the life that I hold so dear, the life I am building for my children, won’t stand the test.
Despite how much I want another child, I also recognize that there are tests that should not be taken. Despite how much I want to hold my own child again, there are times when my selfishness cannot be used against those I love the most. Despite every hormone and every beat of my heart calling for a baby’s cry, the truth remains that I have in life everything that I could ever hope for. And that will be enough.
Because I won’t risk me; and I won’t put my husband through that again. And I won’t lose my job because of a mental breakdown. And I won’t lose all the memories of a week so that I can feel the soft skin of a newborn. And I won’t lose what little strength I have left just to see a baby’s first blink.
But silently, where few will ever see, my heart will break a little.